My life before the age of five was idyllic in every sense of the word.
Happy. My parents were hippies. My little sister and I were born at home, on the couch, and for those first five years we were their world. We went to huge parties with all of their friends. Outdoor potlucks with so much food and all of us kids – usually a pack of 10 or so – would run around while the grownups played croquet and hung out. Freedom to get dirty, to run around half dressed, to push boundaries, to learn….freedom to be a kid. It was pure bliss.
Peaceful. My parents didn’t believe in spanking and were careful to never shout or argue in front of my sister and I. Only once before five did they fight in front of me. I told them to stop and they sent me to my room. Moments later they both came in and apologized. Every morning I woke up to the songs of birds and sunlight streaming in through my bedroom windows. Sometimes when I was the first one up I would sit at the front door, silently listening to the sounds of the forest. We always had cats and dogs and at times tiny kittens that would follow us around while we played.
Picturesque. Every day I ran around, often barefoot, in the woods and streams surrounding our rural house. We lived on forty acres in the mid-west, and were surrounded by hundreds of acres of rural forests and farmland. I never really knew where our land ended and someone else’s began, and it never seemed to matter. Streams, lakes, hanging vines, huge rocks, an old decaying homestead from the 1920s, and endless climbing trees provided years of adventures. My best friend, Alison, lived about a mile up the road. We would call each other and say, “Do you want to meet at the creek?” Then we’d explore the woods for hours and let our imaginations run wild. As the sun set we’d head home.
When I was five my parents sat my sister and I down in the living room and told us that they were getting a divorce. My happy, innocent life shattered on that day, and 25 years later I still remember it vividly. I had no idea what the next 13 years had in store for me. Yelling. Everyone yelling all the time: step-parents, my dad, my mom, me, step-siblings, my sister, more step-parents. So much yelling.
I am so grateful for those first five years.